Green Guide

Smoky skies disrupt Oregon school sports, other activities

Posted August 31

— Poor air quality in wildfire-plagued parts of Oregon has kept people indoors ahead of the long U.S. Labor Day weekend, and there's no end in sight as hot, dry, fiery days are forecast through the holiday.

Air quality has been rated unhealthy in cities across southern and central Oregon as wildfires scorch massive chunks of terrain. The largest blaze, burning timber in the southwest corner of the state, is only 5 percent contained.

Several high school football teams have shifted their season-opening football games to avoid the smoke, and other athletic events — from kayaking to half marathons — have been postponed in this outdoors-loving state.

Football teams have been practicing inside gymnasiums whenever possible. Some fitness enthusiasts are heading to malls and athletic clubs to get their exercise in.

Scott Fowler usually runs outdoors, five to eight miles (five to 13 kilometers) several times a week. This week, he was running on a treadmill at the Superior Athletic Club in Medford.

"I don't want to damage my lungs," he told the Mail Tribune, without breaking his stride. "There's no reason to take a chance and jeopardize my lung capacity. My outdoor activities have come to a halt."

Beyond sports, the smoky skies have forced the cancellation of other outdoor activities, including some performances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

In central Oregon, Melissa Shandy, manager of the Worthy Brewing Co., said the air quality was so bad in the city of Bend that she could not see Pilot Butte, which is a about a mile (1.6 kilometers) away.

"Usually we can see the mountain range and Pilot Butte," Shandy told The Bulletin newspaper. "Right now we can't even see the butte."

The brewery canceled outdoor music concerts this week and closed seating to the patio.

Doctors have reported seeing patients with asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But not the huge influx one might expect.

"It could be just that people are staying inside," said Dr. David Ingraham, an urgent care physician with Bend Memorial Clinic.

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